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  • Multitasking

    Hi all. I have a question I need help with:

    I have been lucky in that I have had some time off, a good rest. Now it's time to get cracking again. I am not under any pressure to get anything done, so I can choose whatever project ideas I want to run with. I work alone at the moment so its small business stuff. I have several ideas that are all pretty good. I will have to start from a standing start so I have to beat the inertia which is a tough part in itself! I think maybe I have taken too much time off. From experience I know that the hardest part of any project is getting started!

    Well Say I have four projects, two I have to start from scratch and two are already there, part done but waiting for pushing further. There is bigger long term potential in the two that have not been started so I would like to jump on them. But there is immediate returns on the two that have been started. If I was dependant on immediate returns the decision would be 50% easier but I'm not.

    I want to get them all rolling but this is impossible as my focus is being pulled all over the show. Should I forget three of them for a period* of time and focus on just one for a period* of time or should I try and set say a day in the week for each project and jump from one to the other throughout the week ie "multitask" or forget three entirely and focus on the best one totally?

    period* when multitasking what periods for on and off the projects.

    If you can figure out what I'm driving at in a general way I would love to hear what advice you can offer?

    Thanks
    Mike

  • #2
    By projects I am going to assume you mean something of a larger focus, an objective, goal, or a vision perhaps. These also seem to be of a business or financial nature. If they are, I would not worry about the multi-tasking element as much as the cohesiveness of the total structure. You have to go into every direction as an entrepreneur or as a financial investor; there is no simplicity. Additionally each of your projects will generate many subprojects. Here are a few thoughts I would take into consideration:

    1. Short-term return not being an issue, I would calculate what the profitability and viability of each project is in the long-term. Take outside factors and resources into consideration as well.

    2. How complementary are these "projects"? Can you employ the same software & equipment setups, supplier/vendor and selling channels, accounting & bookkeeping systems, legal and professional resources, etc. Depending upon the answers, you will already see many of your multi-tasking concerns addressed.

    3. What are your personal goals, and interests? Motivation is a key proponent of this equation. The one(s) that bring out your best capabilities and your passion will most likely (not a guarantee, though) thrive the best.

    I know a few who were and are able to work on more than one venture at a time and many of them thrive. Most of these are highly motivated, hard-working, and suprisingly innovative people. I don't know if GTD is part of their daily life, but, I believe, that if any tool will help you multi-task in this arena, GTD will.

    Comment


    • #3
      Tackle them sequentially

      Originally posted by Mike-GTD View Post
      Should I forget three of them for a period* of time and focus on just one for a period* of time or should I try and set say a day in the week for each project and jump from one to the other throughout the week ie "multitask"
      If someone has a better idea I'd sure like to hear it. But I generally find that I can make more progress on a list of projects if I tackle them sequentially. Sometimes that's not at all possible and I have no choice but to balance multiple initiatives at the same time, but there's always friction in the back and forth shifting of gears. Even in the best of circumstances it's rare that I'm allowed to focus entirely on the one to the exclusion of everything else. That's where the "trusted system" earns its keep. By sweeping everything else into the system as quickly and effortlessly as possible, it's easier to maintain maximum focus on the task (project) at hand.

      Comment


      • #4
        So I will choose anyone one of my projects

        Thanks for your very good answers. Bin thinking about it more and yes you are both correct. In the last 6 months I have learnt to juggle and thinking about this related to the question I've asked, I find the answers:

        Juggling is multitasking. You are constantly shifting focus from one ball to the next. Now when you start learning to juggle you start with the one ball from left to right and back again. Once you can work successfully with one ball you then add a second, then a third and so on. Increasing your performance as your performance increases. Also its important to stay with a task long enough to get some movement. If the four projects were four pieces of paper that I wanted to ignite using the sun and a magnifying glass then it would be no good quickly moving the magnifying glass from one piece of paper to the other. I gotta keep on one long enough to build up the heat!

        So I will choose anyone one of my projects, I will focus on it until it starts moving and work with it to the point I can move away, focus on another project to get that moving and still get back to the 1st project in time to continue it without any loss of momentum. Just like spinning plates on sticks. And if all goes well then maybe hire some bods and teach em how to spin plates if you know what I mean?

        Thanks again
        Last edited by Mike-GTD; 11-19-2007, 08:21 AM. Reason: It said "impotant" !

        Comment


        • #5
          Getting back to basics here, decide which you want to move forward on - others had good suggestions here. Applying Koch's 80-20 principle is a major recommendation. (PLEASE read the book - I've found common knowledge floating around the web barely scratches the surface, and is often incorrect.)

          Of those you're not ready to push forward, put them in Someday/Maybe.

          Of those that you're ready for, write each down on your projects list, and pull out a *very* small action for every one.

          The work the actions list. You might have some that are higher priority, but if you've committed (to yourself or others) to do them, then you need to make progress on them all. Otherwise ... you'll feel bad!

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          • #6
            A contrarian oppinion

            In my experience, multi-tasking is almost universally bad. You would be better off to pick one project and work it through to completion. Focusing your efforts on one single thing has enormous power. You'll be amazed at how quickly you can complete the first project if you focus on it and avoid the mental shifting from one project to the next. Number the projects in priority order from one to four. Work on one until it is completed. Then work on two until it is done, etc. All four projects will finish sooner this way.

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            • #7
              I second Cornells suggestion. Push one project forward until it is sufficiently running. But don't try to make it running perfectly. The last 20 % need much more effort than the first 80 %. Many times these last 20 % to perfection kill the profit of a business venture.

              Yours
              Alexander

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              • #8
                up, up and away

                Well this is the dilama I have had for a very long time! I know that some very successful folks have many, many projects running at the same time. Richard Branson, to name one. Also I really believe that you gotta have all your engines on full throttle to get that plane of the runway and get it up to altitude! Ha,ha there's my answer again! Yes to start a project give it everything you got, full throttle, do not think of loaning one of your engines to one of them other planes on the runway all you'll drop like a stone. Only when this sucker is up and into the cruise can you think about reducing the revs, stick it on autopilot (hire staff) and think about taxiing another plane down to the runway.

                As it happens things have turned out were I have not had to make a decision! Someone has stepped in to help run one of my projects and the bigger project has been bought to the top of the pile by an unexpected offer of a kind of joint venture.

                up, up and away

                Thanks for your help, interesting to get your views on this.

                Also from what I remember from Richard Bransons book, he creates a pile of enthusiasm and excitement over his business ideas, he then puts in very good people to clean up all the mess, manage it and make it work.

                Comment


                • #9
                  "Doing just one project" doesn't work for me, so I have slightly different advice:

                  It's okay to have multiple projects. However, when you're working on a project, give that project your undivided attention for at least half an hour at a time.

                  You can work on twenty different projects each day this way, by giving them each half an hour. But five minutes here and ten minutes there generally don't add up in the way that thirty to sixty minutes of solid time does, in my experience.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    in regard to multi-tasking...

                    I think I am allergic to multi-tasking unless it is for very basic activities such as small repairs, cooking, doing laundry, and routine cleaning, all of which I can do at once with each other and music playing and a conversation.

                    One of the reasons I procrastinate until a crises hits me is that in most areas I enjoy working on one project until it is done, yet I am loathe to park the rest of life and my team and family member's needs on hold just because I am very uncomfortable with stop and start. It is as if I can't even wrap my mind around the first phase until I have though through the whole thing, and I can't think through the first phase until I have started, even although my plan usually changes a few times once I get started on the tasks. This is especially so for intellectual projects such as writing, anything with numbers such as finances and measurement, and tasks that involve moving things around physically or sorting things into groups. I guess that is most of life. Not only am I attracted to doing one project at a time, but I think the quality of my work is so much better, and my solutions are more creative and streamlined. Until I realized this I couldn't see why I would let a crisis develop until I had to drop everything I could drop.

                    If I do have to work back and forth between projects, I need an outline to which I can refer or a "cheat sheet" with the basic details, including my purpose and the parameters of the project.

                    So my greatest problem with GTD, is that the next actions get put into "activity" or "location" contexts but I need to have the cognitive and parameters contexts available to execute things like phone calls, purchases, writing and then I need to refer to the outcome to come up with the next action. When working directly on projects I want enough information at hand so I can make decisions as I go along on a more "wholistic" basis and work dynamically back and forth. When I am not working on a project, I love the chance discovery however.

                    Maybe I am just being neurotic or I have a cogntive distortion in my thinking ("I must have the whole thing mapped out to do a little part"), but most of my blunders and loss of major resources has from doing things without enough context.

                    Any thought on this?

                    Just as a kind of example, I can't really start reading a book until I have looked at the table of contents, the index if any, and gotten a sense of the direction it is going in.

                    And, I hate records and CDs that are the "best of..." , I want the music in the order the artist intended.

                    Maybe I do need an examination of my thinking...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Higher altitude thinking

                      Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
                      So my greatest problem with GTD, is that the next actions get put into "activity" or "location" contexts but I need to have the cognitive and parameters contexts available to execute things like phone calls, purchases, writing and then I need to refer to the outcome to come up with the next action. When working directly on projects I want enough information at hand so I can make decisions as I go along on a more "wholistic" basis and work dynamically back and forth. When I am not working on a project, I love the chance discovery however.
                      I'm not sure this is a problem with GTD per se, but perhaps more of a challenge with the incompleteness of David's description in the book. Only chapters 3, 9, and 10 look at higher altitudes and then at only a cursory level. (David if you're reading this, don't futz with an implementation book, go right to the higher altitude stuff...)

                      David's focus was primarily on getting the runway clear primarily because most people can't get to 10,000 feet because of all the "stuff" on the runway. It's hard to get your airplane off the ground when there are a bunch of huh-stacks all over the runway.

                      The second challenge is in what David refers to as a project. Anything that has more than one action step is a "project" in GTD and this is confusing because different types of projects need to be handled in different types of ways. In addition the tendancy to schedule actions by context tends to lead to some things being a contextual next action when they really should be part of a more detailed project plan.

                      Little projects can be done with little/informal planning and will have next actions by context that can be done at odd lots of time. You can call Dr. Jones to set up an appointment any time you have a phone and move your "get teeth cleaned" project forward. Put that call on your @calls list. But if your responsible for "developing comp plan" for your boss (VP of sales) then and you put call boss to discuss success criteria on your @calls list then (imho) you've made a critical mistake. You aren't going to discuss critical success factors with your boss on the project while in line at the grocery store.

                      The correct approach is to set a meeting with your boss to discuss the project assignment. In fact its probably a good idea to schedule some block time alone to brainstorm what you think the assignment is before you sit down with your boss so your discussion can be as complete as possible.

                      The focus of GTD is moving projects forward one next action at a time. Unfortunately when taken to extremes, and when we focus solely on the runway, it is all to easy to move lots of projects forward without ever completing any of them. It takes the discipline of the higher altitudes to say no to projects that aren't in alignment with those altitudes and further it takes discipline to limit your current projects list to the critical few so that they recieve enough focus and attention that you do more than move them forward, but actually complete them. There are several references to this sort of thinking in David's materials, but unfortunately, there is so much focus on runway activity, that this kind of stuff is often missed.

                      In short, focus on the big rocks; move the little things forward through the cracks in the rocks; and leave yourself enough time to enjoy life in the process. This requires strong decision muscles, and the ability to say no.

                      Examining ones thinking is always good. I don't think you are off-base. I think you are dealing with some grad-level GTD issues... Unfortunately to date, we only have the undergrad textbook...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Awesome post, jpm!


                        Originally posted by jpm View Post
                        Unfortunately to date, we only have the undergrad textbook...

                        I guess to get your phd in roadmaping you have to work with the professor himself for an afternoon. The business model involved was planned at a time when nobody knew how many applicants the basic college course would get.

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                        • #13
                          I now realise the value of having a "someday maybe" list.

                          Originally posted by jpm View Post
                          further it takes discipline to limit your current projects list to the critical few so that they recieve enough focus and attention that you do more than move them forward, but actually complete them.
                          That's a great answer, thanks.

                          I started this thread and got involved with a similar thread on another post so I posted my last thoughts there: http://www.davidco.com/forum/showpos...0&postcount=18

                          Yes you are absolutely correct. Thanks again.
                          Mike

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